Nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit can wait an entire shift for breast milk to thaw so they can prepare bottles for their hungry patients. This can result in hospitals spending millions of dollars in labor each year and nurses unable to provide patient care.
BBy is out to get what CEO Dr. Vansh Langer called a 70-year-old freeze-and-thaw process with his technology that converts donor breast milk into stabilized powdered breast milk.
“There’s a huge opportunity here to change the ‘milk shift,'” Langer told Acutely.info. “If nothing else, it’s a $12 billion annual labor game in the United States and abroad.”
Langer started the New York-based company in 2015 with bioengineer and food scientist Blanca Rosa Aguilar Uscanga, PhD, who had written a paper on the challenges of making powdered human milk in a way that would preserve the bioactive elements that make human milk , well, stay like mother’s milk.
Together they investigated the problem and Langer developed a two-factor laser device that works with commercial condensers. Using Uscanga’s algorithm, the device takes the weight of the breast milk and then adjusts the rate and temperature of the breast milk sent into the vacuum so that it stays in what Langer called “the bioactive zone.”
The result is a powder that retains nutritional and immunological properties and has a shelf life of up to six months. BBy packages the powder in one-ounce and two-ounce aluminum packets and delivers it to hospitals every two weeks. Nurses mix the required amount of powder with water. This process not only reduces waste but also eliminates the need for multiple freezers to store large amounts of breast milk, Langer said.
BBy processes 10 gallons of breast milk twice a day at eight regional processing facilities near its 17 customer hospitals in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Texas. The main research facility is located in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The company’s technology is patent pending and there are more than 50 related, peer-reviewed and published scientific papers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has designated BBy’s technology as a food device and does not require further medical review, Langer said.
BBy has an average revenue of $800,000 per month, nearly $10 million in annual revenue, Langer said. He expects that to double in the coming year, even though hospital contracts come with long sales cycles.
“It’s a challenge that every other health technology start-up has,” Langer said. “Everything we do now probably closes next year, so that’s why we try to start as many as possible. There are always a few that drop out.”
After seven years of starting the company, BBy raised $3 million in a round last year after joining Y Combinator’s Winter 2022 cohort. Pioneer Fund led the round and was joined by Y Combinator, 7G BioVentures, Cathexis Ventures and a group of angel investors.
For example, while the company is targeting hospitals, a future product pipeline could include developing more user-friendly versions of its device so people can condense their own milk.
“It was time for us to get out of the lab and really get all of our hospital contracts off the ground,” Langer said. “We’re working to become the de facto way hospitals store and administer breast milk.”